Wexford welcome All Ireland champions, Galway, to Innovate Park on Saturday evening in a repeat of last year’s Leinster Hurling final.
We look ahead to some of the key factors that will decide this highly-anticipated clash.
1) How crucial will home advantage be to Wexford?
Any team in Ireland will testify that Wexford Park is one of the most difficult grounds to travel to. More importantly, Wexford thrive there.
Davy Fitzgerald’s men have a stellar record at home, beating both Clare and Cork in Wexford in the League earlier this year.
Saturday evening’s clash is expected to be a sell-out with the Wexford faithful sure to be in full voice. In the last 20 minutes when the legs begin to tire or if Wexford find themselves lagging, home advantage will give them a boost.
2) Will Wexford be fatigued as a result of the new system?
Wexford are facing into their third game of the championship in just 13 days, following their tight win over Dublin and demolishing of Offaly last weekend. Galway, on the other hand, also played last weekend but they enjoyed a two week break between their opening two fixtures.
Davy has opted to keep the same team that overcame Offaly last weekend, despite heading into another game in seven weeks time.
They have yet to show any signs of fatigue but with the physicality and intensity that comes with playing the All Ireland champions, today might prove too much for this set of players.
3) Will Galway step up their performance from Kilkenny clash?
Before last weekend, many would have predicted a Galway win against the Cats but what did surprise many is the manner in which both teams performed. Kilkenny seemed lethargic at times while Galway were in cruise mode.
Despite that, 1-12 of their 1-22 total came from the stick of Joe Canning. There is an expectation that Galway can step up the gears and they will have to look to the likes of Conor Cooney, Conor Whelan and Cathal Mannion to do just that.
Wexford will prove to be a much tougher task than Kilkenny posed, even if they are fatigued and many will expect Galway to up the intensity to match.
4) Will Davy have one eye on next weekend’s fixture?
There’s no denying that the latter end of the round-robin games will prove the toughest for Davy’s charges. They face a tough trip to Nowlan Park in just seven days time to face a Kilkenny team who will have had two weeks to lick their wounds that Galway inflicted. No doubt, that fact has been playing on the Wexford manager’s mind.
Expect to see good use of the bench as a result. While they’ll be hoping to keep Rory O’Connor and co. on the field for as long as possible, Wexford will be looking to the likes of David Dunne and Harry Kehoe to provide fresh legs and rejuvenated energy in the last 20.
5) Is this clash a dress rehearsal for the Leinster final?
It is a clash of the top two counties in the Leinster table on Saturday evening with many believing that these two will be the one’s to contest the provincial final, as they did last year.
We all know that you write off Kilkenny at your peril as they proved with winning the Allianz League this year but there’s no denying that they are not the monopolisers they once were and after last week’s display, they have left themselves with a mountain to climb.
Wexford will feel the pressure to come away with the win today, leaving them in a better position heading to Nowlan Park next week. While to lose a place in the final would not be the end of the road, it would be a huge blow to this squad who are looking to go one step further from last year.